Studies have shown that your body language communicates more to another person than what you say or the tone of your voice. This is even truer when you are interacting with a stranger, as one naturally sizes up someone new. For that reason, your body language during a job interview has a large effect on the hiring manager’s perceptions of you and consequently, your likelihood of being hired.
How you present your body can convey subtle (and sometimes, not so subtle) cues that project anxiety, hesitation, confidence or even arrogance. Because restaurant jobs involve strong interpersonal skills, a hiring manager will be paying close attention to your body language and how it corresponds (or does not correspond) to the questions he or she asks and the answers you give. With this in mind, you should observe of your own habits and what meaning they give off (with or without you consciously noticing). Additionally, any preparation for a job interview should include a review of good body language and not focus solely on what you say:
Don’t Try to Fake It:
As body language is frequently as a lie detector, it is hard to fake your body language and most of us cannot make our bodies do everything we want when we are nervous. The key is not to fake it! The trick is being relaxed and connected with your body during an interview. When you leave your body on automatic and ignore basic sensations, you would be surprised how quickly you slouch in your chair or start tapping your fingers nervously.
The first thing you can practice is slowing down how fast we speak. Often when we operate at the speed of our minds, we lose control of our body language. So talking slowly and deliberately is a good way to keep our bodies in check during an interview. Since our main focus during the interview will be what we say anyway (not our feet or shoulders), how fast you speak is a reliable path to greater control over your body and a generally more relaxed state. When you do a practice interview with a friend, tape record it and observe how you perform. You can see your body language, but also track how fast you are speaking. There is an additional benefit: unless it is unusually slow, slower speakers tend to disarm and relax whoever they are speaking to, in this case the hiring manager.
Learn Good Body Language:
When preparing, you want to focus on what you should do and not what you shouldn’t do. No one is perfect. If you slip into some kind of negative pose in the interview, you do not want to lose your cool and let a lot of chatter cloud your thinking. Over the course of in interview, everyone re-adjusts themselves a few times (it would be strange to be perfectly still). The thing is to teach your body to recognize good body language in your body (without a mirror). Noticing sensations will bring a greater mindfulness to what you are doing with your body when your mind is elsewhere, such as answering questions for an interview. Here are the basic elements of good body language:
- Eye Contact: Maintain frequent though intermittent eye contact. Sense the comfort level of the manager and give them slightly more than equal eye contact.
- Posture: Sit up right but in a relaxed way where your shoulders drop naturally and your back is straight but not flexed backwards.
- Angles: Direct your shoulders so that you are facing the manager. You do not want to suggest avoidance but openness.
- Leaning: You don’t want to be a statute nor lean in aggressively. Lean in fluidly when appropriate but always return to a natural sitting position.
- Hands and Feet: Find a few comfortable poses before the interview that suggest you are engaged but not aggressive. The more relaxed they are the better, so feet should be flat on the floor (if possible) and hands should be in a neutral state unless speaking. When you do speak, your gesticulation should be natural and used sparingly.
What to Do the Day Of the Interview:
Your body language is a product of your energy level. Hormones like adrenaline can play a significant role in your mental and physical state. So if you have a tension releaser, like exercise, yoga or meditation, it is a good idea to do it the day of an interview (but not over do it). On the other hand, only drink enough coffee to keep you awake and attentive, as caffeine can wreak havoc with jitteriness.
Staying in Your Chair and Not in Your Thoughts:
Remember an interview is only a conversation, and you have had thousands upon thousands of conversations in your life. If you think of it as a performance, you are likely not to relate the hiring manager and that will probably affect your body language. So develop a simple system to “check in” on your body. Stay positive every time you straighten yourself in your chair or refocus on the interviewer’s eyes. With body language, things fall apart for everyone, what makes the difference is those who bring it back together naturally. That way you let your body language contribute to you getting your next job.
Author: Julie Lerner is a co-founder of EatDrinkJobs, the easiest way to hire and get hired in the restaurant industry. EatDrinkJobs lists restaurant and bar jobs online for all positions including servers, hosts, bartenders, managers, cooks & chefs.